Memorial Day Starts High-Risk Season for Doctors

May 24, 2016

For doctors and their families, the time between Memorial Day to Labor Day can be dangerous as there is a spike in injuries, fatalities, and more.

Memorial Day starts the happy summer season for many Americans and their families, but it’s also a time of heightened personal risk and liability. Any competent asset protection planning for doctors must take these seasonal exposures as seriously as any professional risk and manage them proactively.

Like most of the country you are probably looking forward to the long Memorial Day weekend ahead and some time off that may involve a trip or pool party and BBQ. It’s also the start of what lawyers and others have traditionally referred to as the “100 Deadliest Days” the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day where we traditionally see a huge spike in injuries, fatalities, property damage, and lawsuits that result from a variety of factors including, but certainly not limited to, your children.

First Step, Check Your Personal Liability Insurance and Get That Umbrella

So far this year I personally have taken five calls regarding auto accidents that have produced liability significantly above the limits of the caller’s insurance policy. In every case I had to inform the caller (three of whom were doctors) of the following:

1. They could not legally plan against an existing exposure;

2. That they “should have” had a personally liability umbrella policy in place as the first line of defense for at least $1 million, ideally more;

3. That any actions they took to move, hide or conceal assets would be fraud and would likely be both civilly and criminally actionable, up to the level of a felony, in some states.

We’ve previously covered why this often overlooked defensive tool is so vital  in protecting you from your home and auto related exposures and many top carriers offer coverage options that provide enhanced protection against family and parental liability issues like cyber-bullying, assault by your kids, and other issues that surprise even the best parents of the best kids in the best neighborhoods. If you have an umbrella, or are finally getting one in place, make sure it includes two vital areas of coverage under-insured motorist (UIM) and uninsured motorist (UM) in case you or your family are involved in an accident where someone else who is not adequately insured is at fault.

Second Step, Keep an Eye on Your Kids

As I mentioned, this is certainly not just about your children, but they are certainly a leading cause of liability at this time of year. They are often out of school (at least part of the summer) and are spending more time together, engaging in risky activities, unsupervised, and driving vehicles. We continue to see a wide variety of exposures related to children of all ages, including those over the age of 18 whom many parents wrongly assume they no longer have legal liability for, that’s not really true. You “generally” face both civil and even criminal liability for the actions of your children under the age of 18 (details vary from state to state) and can also be held liable for leaving them alone and unsupervised. What many fail to remember is that your adult children, over 18, may also be using your vehicles, home and pool, vacation property, recreational vehicles, boats, firearms and etc. also create significant liability for you. If your property has been “negligently entrusted” to your child, regardless of their age, you will almost certainly have liability for any related harm attributed to you and be named as a co-defendant. Let’s be honest, who is a better target with a deeper pocket, you or your kid? This liability should be expected whether you were explicitly aware of or permitted their use of the property in questions or not. If I was suing you I’d give you only two equally bad options; you either failed to control and supervise your property and access to it, or you permitted the harm by giving permission.

Finally, always remember the “lowest common denominator” rule. Any of the potentially dangerous issues outlined above could just as easily be a liability because of your or your spouse’s actions, the actions of an adult guest or even the friends of your children that are less well trained about these issues than your children hopefully will be and nothing replaces enforced rules and your supervision.